Conference on rice fortification seeks solution for malnutrition

Kathmandu, December 19

Enriching rice with essential vitamins and minerals could hold the key to a healthier, more productive future for the Nepali people, suggested a two-day conference that concluded in the capital today.

The first national conference on rice fortification was convened by the Department of Health Services, Department of Food Technology and Quality Control, and the Nepal Food Corporation in association with the United Nations World Food Programme.

Malnutrition in general — but even more so micronutrient malnutrition — is a serious public health concern in Nepal. The country’s rates of iron deficiency and anemia remain high.

The 2016 Nepal Demographic and Health Survey revealed that anaemia prevailed in more than one out of four women of reproductive age and above fifty per cent in children between 6 to 59 months old. Among pregnant and breastfeeding women, the prevalence of anaemia reached 46 per cent each; among children of 12-17 months it hit an alarming 74 per cent.

“Access to proper nutrition is a human right that no individual should be denied. We are pleased to begin this national initiative to make a real difference in the everyday lives of millions, by engaging multiple partners across different sectors,” said Minister for Health Deepak Bohara.

The nutrients most commonly used in food grain fortification are iron and folic acid. Fortifying rice with essential vitamins and minerals will lead to better health among the poor and vulnerable.

“Chronic malnutrition, especially among women, adolescent girls and children, is a terrible issue in Nepal, both in terms of health and economic productivity,” said Pippa Bradford, WFP Nepal Country Director.